Monday, May 31, 2010

Too Many Lawyers?

I went back to my ten year college reunion this weekend.  Princeton has reunions every year.  The big reunions are every five years (the biggest being the 25th reunion) and as such, I decided to go down for the day since I was in New York City.  Quite a crowd turned out.  Despite it being her 25th, Michelle Obama was not one of them.   It was more enjoyable than I would have predicted.  Last time I went to reunions for my fifth, I did not have a particularly good time.  I decided to go for the entire three day event.  By the end of the second day I really was wondering what the heck I was doing there.  This time, I decided only to go for the day (and none of the nighttime activities) and it ended up being the perfect amount of time to see the campus and a few of my friends I wanted to catch up with.

One of the things that sticks out to me though was a fact that was given at the end of the P-rade.   As my classed marched down I heard two facts.  One was that my class, the class of 2000, was setting attendance records for the 1st, 5th, and 10th reunions (all reunions I attended).  But the more interesting fact was that the number one profession of my class was being a lawyer.  To be exact, it was stated that 14% of my class had become lawyers.

Now, I went to an Ivy league school and you would expect a large percentage of my class to be in high paying jobs.   Since law is a high paying job it does not surprise me that it is a profession many in my class pursued  What surprised me was that it was number one.  And as I thought about it I though what a sad commentary that actually is for our society.

Don't get me wrong.  I think lawyers are necessary in our society.  I also don't think all lawyers are scumbags like others might.  But for me, law is an ancillary profession.  It is best as a supporting function to the creation of value and wealth to our society.   It is in the same class of profession as accountants and clerical work.  These are jobs that are absolutely necessary but at the end of the day is overhead to the actual creation of wealth.   This is in contrast to things like medicine, manufacturing, or the creation of intellectual property that actually drive the economy and create value in our lives.

So what does it say that the brightest mind in the country if not the world are pursuing careers that are not creating wealth to our society?

I think it says a couple of things.  First, I think it says something about how the cost of obtaining a world-class education has skewed the choices we make.  Most of my class graduated with quite a bit of debt.  This problem is only getting worse has college becomes more and more expensive and having a college degree does not make you stand out anymore.  It used to be, for my parent's generation, that having a college degree was not the norm.  Now, all my friends have one and that in itself means you have to find other ways to differentiate.  Most people are finding it necessary to get a post-graduate degree to really make themselves stand out and earn the money needed to pay back these college loans. This is a true fact.  I am the ONLY one of my college friends that does not have a post-graduate degree.  Think about that for a second.  I'm the only one.  I have lots of friends from college and they all decided to pursue even more education.

The second problem I see is that we are emphasizing the wrong things. As a country, we have created a society where one of the best paying jobs is being a lawyer.  Now to be fair, this has been the case for quite a while.  But I would argue that before it was more a function about the scarcity of the education required to practice law than it was about the voracious appetite to produce lawyers.  But we are now pumping out lawyers at a very large rate.  There must be an overwhelming demand for lawyers in order to keep salaries as high as they are.    This is because we have created such a complex set of laws and a society that is so litigious that it is required for any large corporation to have an army of lawyers ready to protect and to sue.

So rather than create professionals ready to find the cure for cancer or to create the next great product we create an army of people ready to sue others.  How on earth can we change this dynamic?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Macbook Pro Review

Macbook Pro

I recently got a Macbook Pro for use at work.  I'm not sure when I became such an Apple user (I have an iPhone and an iPad) but I now have the trifecta of Apple products.  This marks my first OS X computer.  I've been a user of plenty of other operating systems such as OS/2, Solaris, Linux, and Windows.  I did use a Macintosh SE way back in the day.  But I have not used any modern Apple OS so I was interested how it would turn out.

To sum it up, I'm completely unimpressed.  I really went in with an open mind.  In fact, I really wanted to like it since I like my iPhone and everyone I know who uses Macs love it.  They love it so much they won't stop talking about it (which bugs me a little actually).  As someone who greatly values easy to use products and products which are designed with the customer in mind, I was hoping that this Apple product would really open my eyes to how computing should be done.  It hasn't.   Even more disappointing is that I have one of the nicer Macbook Pros.  I got the one with an Intel i7 processor, upgraded HD, and upgraded Video Card.  This thing should be rocking.

Now one thing I will say is that I feel I might feel differently if I had not used Windows 7.  Compared to Windows XP, the Windows version most people are familiar with, I think OS X blows that out of the water.  If OS X was like this 5 years ago when XP was really your only choice than I can understand the love.  Even compared to Vista it is superior although I never hated Vista as much as others.  But compared to Windows 7 I'm just not sure the Apple "simplicity" edge is really there anymore.  Here is how it breaks down for me.

Stability - This is the one thing I was really interested in seeing.  Apple users swear that Macs never crash and make fun of Windows users who experience the Blue Screen of Death.  Well I am pretty sure all those people need to shut up.  Since the launch of Windows 7 I rarely, if ever see the BSOD.  It may have happened over the last year but I honestly don't remember having any issues since Windows 7 went RTM and I'm a pretty heavy computer user so you would think I would run into it.  Within the first two days of having my Macbook Pro the thing crashed three times.  A week later, I had it freeze three times in a row on me in one hour.  This is not an exaggeration.  I called over the Mac lovers in my group to show them because they didn't believe me.  I let the computer sit for 30 minutes untouched and it sat their frozen.  The mouse would move but otherwise nothing was responding.  The only solution was a hard reboot.  Just yesterday, after giving a presentation, I unplugged the Mac from the projector and then the screen went dark and stayed dark.  Completely unresponsive.  At least with the BSOD, you know something is wrong.  My Mac just decides to die on you with no indication that there is actually anything wrong.

Business Software -  If you work in an office that is on Exchange and uses Outlook, forget the Mac.  I'm an Outlook power user.  As someone in management, my day consists of checking e-mail and going to meetings.  All things that  I depend very heavily on Outlook for.  There is no real substitute on the Mac.  Entourage,  the Mac Office equivalent of Outlook is a complete joke.  I could write a whole post on why it is inadequate but it would probably just upset me.  If you use the other Office products like Excel, Word, and Powerpoint don't fool yourself into thinking that Office on the Mac is like Office on Windows.  Yes Microsoft makes both products but that doesn't mean they are the same product.  They really aren't.

 Lack of Software in General - There are some basic things I need to be able to do on my computer and there are programs I have found on Windows to do them.  Similar products aren't available on the Mac.  It took me a while to find DB client program which would connect to all the various Database servers I needed to connect to.   I had several free versions to choose from on Windows but could only find one which I had to pay money for on the Mac.  The same can be said for photo editing.  Maybe I'm biased because I like Rick's program but it really upset me that I found it difficult to edit simple pictures.  Those who like iPhoto are crazy.  More on that later.

"Simplicity" - The mac is supposed to be easy to use right? I wanted to edit a picture and then save it.  I opened the photo in iPhoto and tried to save it.  Was unsuccessful. Could not for the life of me figure out why the original photo, which I wanted to save over, had not changed.  I called over 4 engineers to my desk to figure this out.  3 of them are Mac users.  None of them could figure it out either.  How on earth is that simple?  Also, why is it that most of the useful commands take pressing 3 keys to do.  Ever try to take a screenshot on a Mac.  I have to hit three keys.  That is if I can remember which three.  One button on a PC.  And I don't care what anyone says.  A mouse with only one button is not easier to use.

Hot Hot Hot -  This is the hottest running laptop I have ever had.  Seriously, if it were sitting on lap during any serious computation, it would burn me.

The Little Things -Here are a bunch of other things that just annoy me

  •  No easy way to lock the screen.

  • Plugged in a Flash drive.  Didn't recognize it and didn't tell me it even attempted.

  • I really like the Windows 7 feature of dragging windows to various locations to change size and shape.  No such thing in the Mac.

  • Windows are very easily lost behind one another.

  • Closing a window doesn't actually close the program.

  • Force quit is not as effective as good ol' ctrl-alt-delete.

While the overall tone of the tone of this post may seem negative I'm not actually that down on the computer.  It is certainly nice but it isn't the life changing thing I was expecting.  It's like that over-hyped movie everyone talks about.  Ever notice how the movies everybody raves about are never as good as you thought.  I think the same thing happened here.  I like the computer, it is a solid performer, but I was just expecting a little more.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Back After Some Maintenance

Sorry for the VERY long break.  Part of it was me being busy but a lot of it was the fact that my hosting company decided to stop supporting my blog and I had to scramble to figure out what I was going to do.  I didn't really want to update the blog while the situation was not settled so I avoided making any posts or responding to any comments.  I moved over the comments that got lost in the migration to the best of my ability.  This site still has some issues after the move but I will try to address this over the next few weeks.